I have a question:
If your mother thought you were someone else, would you address her as “Mom?”
I have two examples.
My mom is sitting across from me on the sofa at her house.
Mom: “So, how’s your mother doing?”
Me: “Um . . . she’s fine.”
Mom: “What is her name again?”
I stammer, unsure what I should say. If I tell her the truth, she might be embarrassed. If I tell a fiblet, she might become even more confused if she suddenly remembers who she is or who I am.
I opt to tell her the truth.
Mom: “Really? That’s your mother’s name?” (She is holding her head in her hands in frustration.)
Me: “Yep.” (Suddenly I feel guilty.)
Her: “That’s really strange because that’s my name and I don’t have any kids.”
Me: (A lump is in my throat.) “Oh, that is really strange.”
At that point, I changed the subject. I didn’t want to push the issue and thereby further confuse her.
Another evening I was sitting on the sofa. My mom was standing in front of me. My sister was walking into the living room from the kitchen.
Mom: (Looking at me.) Have you met my niece? (She motions to my sister.)
Me: (I raise my eyebrows.) No, I don’t believe I have.
Mom: Come in here. (She gestures to my sister) I can’t remember your name right now. It’s Barbara, right? (My sister’s name is Sharon.)
Sister: Yes. (She knows it’s just easier to go with the flow.) Hi, nice to meet you.
Me: Hi, Barbara, nice to meet you too.
Mom: Barbara, this is my friend from church. (She looks at me and laughs.) Your name is on the tip of my tongue.
What is it again?
Me: It’s Joyce. (The name she called me one night.)
Mom: That’s right. I know you from church, right?
At this point, I am wondering if I should reality orient her and tell her “No, I’m your daughter.” I wonder if I should call her Mom.
I opt to call her Marijean.
Me: Yes, Marijean. It’s nice to meet your niece. (My sister and I shake hands.)
Mom doesn’t seem phased. But, ten minutes later when she begins ordering me to put away the dishes in the kitchen, she calls me by my real name and I then revert to calling her mom.
But, in the back of my mind, I am wondering if she’d be upset or confused if I called her mom during one of her “I don’t have any children” phases. I really hate the pained look on her face when she realizes something isn’t right and it might be her.
Sometimes she asks me if all the kids are home. I ask her what kids she means. She names me and my siblings and says they are at the park and it’s time for them to come home for dinner.
Seriously, I can’t keep track. Who am I? What’s my name today? How old am I? Who is she? What’s her name today?
It’s enough to make a daughter dizzy.